Fine Tuning your House League Pattern

This is the time of year when new seasons have begun and pattern decisions are being put to the test. You’ve made your choice, laid out the pattern, and now things aren’t going exactly as planned. You’ve verified that your machine is in perfect working order, now what do you do?

Once the bowlers take to the lane, lots of problems can come to light. If a majority of your bowlers are experiencing the same problem, it may be time to make adjustments to the pattern. Common complaints could be: too much carrydown, back ends too strong, not enough hold area, heads hooking, no swing, track dries up too quickly, or no taper. How do you trouble-shoot your pattern and fine-tune it to get the ideal conditions for this year’s league? Here are some tips for common problems with patterns which should help you make proper adjustments.

Too Much Carrydown

Too much conditioner at the end of the pattern can cause excessive carrydown. This can be rectified by not loading as far down lane on the forward pass or increasing the machines buff out speed, which decreases the amount of conditioner on the lane towards the end of the pattern.

If your machine has our reverse brush drop feature, this is another fine tune adjustment you can make to bring the amount of conditioner farther back towards the foul line, or limit the amount of conditioner towards the end of the pattern. Poor cleaning can also cause carrydown issues. This can come from an incorrect mixture of cleaner or improper machine performance. It can never hurt to double check to make sure your machine is cleaning properly. To do this, perform a clean-only run on a few lanes and see if all the conditioner and cleaner are removed from each lane.

Back Ends Are Too Strong

Lengthen the pattern or create more taper to tone down the back end reaction. Tamer back ends provide predictable ball reaction and make spare shooting much easier.

Different types of cleaner provide different back end motions; this is another “condition” adjustment you can try. You could also experiment with a weaker ratio of cleaner to water mixture, but be careful; there is a fine line between getting the lane clean, and not clean enough.

Not Enough Hold Area

Make no mistake about it, as much as bowlers think they like swing area, what creates the highest scoring environment is hold area. The hold area is created by the amount of shape in the pattern towards the end as well as some friction outside of target. Without both, it is just about impossible to have the other.

If your lane machine has reverse oiling capabilities, starting the reverse oil loads farther down the lane will help increase hold without fear of getting too much conditioner at the end of the pattern, which as we said before, can cause carrydown issues.

Lane topography can increase hold area, a side slope away from the pocket at the break point area for instance, but topography can also minimize hold area if the side slope is towards the pocket at the break point area. Before you start searching for hold area by way of the oil pattern, get to know your lanes to make sure your lanes will allow the type of shot you are searching for.

Heads are “Hooking”

The amount of oil in the lay down area, or a lane surface in poor condition, can cause the heads to hook. In both instances, the lane machine should run slower in the heads, 10 or 14 inches per second on Kegel machines. The slower the machine travels, the more brush strokes per distance traveled which increases the amount of conditioner to any one area. This is better controlled on the return oil due to the direction of travel and the rotation of the buffer brush. Apply oil loads during the return travel that finish closer to the foul line (but not less than 4 feet).

Another thing that will give the perception that the heads are hooking is when the lay-down point of the bowling ball is on the upslope of severely depressed heads. No amount of oil in the world can fight a significant gravity influence towards the headpin in this situation.

No Swing Area

The amount of oil on the outside boards or adverse lane topography can affect swing area. Reducing the length of your oil pattern, or decreasing the amount of the applied oil on the outside boards, will increase the amount of swing area. But be cautious, even though bowlers like to swing the ball, your lanes just may not allow that to happen with the success you, and they, are looking for. Just know, however, our highest scoring patterns are the ones where most styles can go up the lane and have hold area.

A recent example is the 2011 WTBA Women's World Championship where many scoring records were set on the 47' Paris oil pattern. Note: the 2011 version of the Paris pattern tapes out at 4.2:1 at 22', so be aware if you try and use this in your Sport Bowling league.

Another example of a high scoring pattern is our Kegel Navigation Challenge pattern Route 66. This 45’ pattern routinely outscores many higher ratio shorter recreation patterns.

If you have topography issues, or side slopes that go towards the outside portion of the lane, the pattern should be adjusted by stacking up your inside oil line, applying conditioner farther towards the end on the forward and reverse passes, and allow the bowlers to play a more direct line to the pocket. This should create more area where ball reaction is concerned on a longer pattern.

Another topographic issue that can decrease swing area is depressed heads. Depressed heads cause the ball to quickly lose energy which makes down lane recovery (swing area) very difficult no matter how little oil you apply to the outside boards, or how much you apply to the heads.

Track Area Dries Up Too Quickly

Many bowling centers do not apply enough oil to the mid-lane track area on both the forward and return passes. Applying oil to the track on the return pass can help provide more longevity and stability without drastically affecting the forward oil readings and ball motion at the end of the oil pattern. Another adjustment is widening your pattern slightly. As balls hook more, the track area is becoming wider and farther down-lane. Take your middle loads and try widening them out a board or two and see if this adjustment gives you more longevity to your track area.

No Taper to My Pattern

The easiest way to create taper in the pattern is to make adjustments to your lane machine’s drive speeds during the forward pass only. Increasing the drive speeds on your forward run towards the end of the pattern will apply less oil in that area which increases front to back taper.

If your machine has Kegel's reverse brush drop capability, dropping the buffer brush farther back into the pattern on the reverse pass can also give you more front to back taper within your pattern.


With these tips, tricks, and troubleshooting techniques, you should be able to tweak your pattern and make it playable for most of your league bowlers. However, even with excellent lane conditions, you may still not be able to please everyone. If you reach the point where the majority of the bowlers are happy and bowling well, then it may be time to leave the lanes alone.

As always, it is important to remember that the pattern is not the only factor contributing to your lane conditions. You are competing against the lane topography, the other bowlers who share the lane, and Mother Nature herself. With topography, we cannot stress enough how important it is for you to know the shape of your lanes. When that information is known, finding that right oil pattern for your center is much easier. Without it, it's just a trial and error exercise.

To learn more about how topography and weather can affect your lane conditions, visit our INSIDE LINE archive.

Bowling is about skills and technique, but it is also about versatility and one’s ability to read the lanes and make adjustments to account for those factors which are out of your control.

Warning: Managing lane conditions may result in the loss of sanity. If it occurs, please contact our free Kegel Tech Support at (800) 280-2695 and we’ll help you get it back.